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People are fleeing U.S. territories, what gives?

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Source: The Washington Post

Washington, D.C. — For much of the postwar era, America’s territories thrived. Remnants of the age of imperialism, the five far-flung Caribbean and Pacific outposts added residents faster than most states. But the 2020 Census revealed a troubling turn: Every territory is now shrinking, losing population faster than any state.

The largest U.S. territory, Puerto Rico, has 3.3 million people and Spanish and West Indian traditions tracing back to Columbus. The nearby U.S. Virgin Islands (population 87,000) were previously settled by Denmark. Over in the Pacific between Japan and Australia, Guam (pop. 154,000) and the Northern Mariana Islands (pop. 47,000) share Chamorro heritage and tourist economies oriented toward East Asia. And American Samoa (pop. 50,000), in the heart of Polynesia, still employs a communal system of land ownership and lies closer to New Zealand than Hawaii.

Their population collapse also seems uniquely American. From 2010 to 2020, the population plummeted by 18 percent in the U.S. Virgin Islands while the British Virgin Islands gained 9 percent. Over the same period, American Samoa lost 11 percent while independent Samoa gained 7 percent.

What’s going on? Why are people fleeing the distant vestiges of America’s global empire?

The Washington Post story explores the reasons including failing services that lead to a vicious cycle of falling tax revenues exaserbating failing services. That and the phasing-out of one of the biggest tax credits, Section 936 of the Internal Revenue Code, from 1996 to 2006 — is also one of the culprites.

Click to read the full story in The Washington Post